By Just a Paperbag Prophet on a Sunday Afternoon, from the blog of the same name.
It wasn’t my fault the factory blew up. Okay, maybe just a bit, but you have to hear me out on this one. I’m a film student. Well, I used to be a film student. I graduated pretty recently. That means I’ve always liked having a story to tell, always liked hearing other people’s anecdotes. There’s always something you can do with a good anecdote, juicy stuff just waiting to burst with the puncture of a couple choice words. I’ve had anecdotes of my own, and they came and went, and then the factory blew up. That’s a damn good anecdote, so I’m going to anecdote it to you. You can imagine some jaunty animation accompanying these words if that makes them easier to visualize. And you’ll want to visualize, trust me.
No one was using the factory, anyway. It had been abandoned for years and it was due to come down sooner or later. People just had to figure out what they wanted to do with it. They used to make boxes in there. My grandpa worked on the production line for a while, said it was awful boring stuff. And hey, I like boring. I thought maybe I could do something with that. It seemed like the most boring thing I could think of for a job, so there had to be something we could do to make it hip to the youth, as they say (they don’t). I had a project due around that time, making a documentary about history.
Excellent. And who could object to local history? My prof didn’t. I got the permits and all, legalized nice and pretty so I could take a look inside without getting arrested. They’d closed it off from the public, of course, but it was only with a shabby fence. Kids went in there all the time to have sex or shoot up, whatever kids needed to do away from other people.
I went in there for a bit, collected some really good footage, but then I got stumped about what it would take to make it interesting. I had vision, but no way to build the ladder that’d get me up to nirvana. Or some metaphor like that. So I went to the good old-fashioned library and looked up the files on the factory. I had to do research anyway, and there was a week left before I needed to start editing. By and by, I came by a newspaper clipping from the early nineteen hundreds. There had been a fire in there, a big one, killing some of the workers and leaving a few managers pretty hurt. This would work out perfectly. Horror, suffering, cinematic substance. Now all I needed was a fire. You think you see where this is going? You’re probably right, but let’s finish what we began.
After a little more digging, I figured out that you could create a little bonfire in a barrel. I assumed that with enough space in the factory, I could burn some old exam papers and no one would be any the wiser. Well, this is what we in the business call irony. I set up the barrels, gasoline and all to make it big, bright, and shiny, and decided to come back the next morning when there would be better light in which I could film more. Not too long after I left, a couple of hobos found the place and thought it looked like as good a spot as any to camp out. I guess they thought my barrels were good fire material, because they fired them up all right. And the fire caught fire.
Now, there’s a massive appeal people find in disaster movies. I spent a lot of time wondering why, why would you want to watch stuff blow up when you know it’s just leaving behind a crater and some rubble. There’s not anything that comes out of it; just destruction. I don’t know. I never got it. Except for right then. I heard the explosion on my way down the road, and turned to look. I knew what it was. Watching smoke strangle the sky, the beautiful billows and plumes of ash caressing clouds. I got it. It’s that feeling of not being able to do anything, that feeling that says, fuck it I’m done here. And I’m done here for quite a while now.
The hobos were fine, by a beautiful miracle, ducking underneath some deus ex machina called a boiler cabinet. As for me, I plan on sticking to artsy films now, the ones where people sit around in hats and no one talks.
I ran across the Paperbag Prophet's writing through the Story a Day in May website. I love his/her writing. Check out more stories at the Paperbag Prophet blog.
If you have an anecdote about film or fires I'd really love to share it her on My Embellished Life - being a former film student and current volunteer firefighter, you'd think I'd have such a story... but I don't! So please share yours by linking to this page.